I want to say that something can be enabled or disabled. Is there a single word or a phrase to describe this? I found the word "enableable" on Urban Dictionary , but i'm still not sure if this word exists and frequently used.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL.SE! By the way, I think it's wierd but usable. – M.A.R. Jan 16 '15 at 14:08
  • @MARamezani, thanks! But how about the word "enableability"? – s1e Jan 16 '15 at 14:13
  • I guess there is a need for more context. What or who exactly has be ability to be enabled? How the full sentence is expected to look? – CowperKettle Jan 16 '15 at 14:21
  • It is not an adjective that one would use in conversation. The idiomatic way is to say "can be enabled". In computer program documentation, which is often unidiomatic, one might find it. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 16 '15 at 14:29
  • 2
    @CopperKettle, this is actually for computer program documentation, as TRomano guessed. I want to say that there are some elements on the page that can be enabled. – s1e Jan 16 '15 at 14:41

"Enableable" is possible, but it's not a common word and it's a little difficult to pronounce.

If essential to the idea is that something is not presently enabled but can be enabled, I think I would use a phrase, like "can be enabled". Depending on the context, you might simply use a totally different word, like say the thing is "available".


People on here often ask, "What is one word that means ..." Often the correct answer is, "There is no one word that conveys that meaning. You have to use more than one word." While of course it's convenient if there is one short, simple word that expresses an idea, I'd say, Don't be afraid to use multiple words. A single word is not always better. Sometimes there is a single word, but the word is rarely used so most of your readers won't know it and will have to guess what it means. (In theory they could look it up in a dictionary, but for most that would be way too much effort.) Or it could be difficult to pronounce or awkward for some other reason.

The only reason I can see to insist on a single word is if you are using it over and over again in a document. If you're going to say it once or twice, using several words should be no problem. If you're going to say it a hundred times and it takes ten words to express the idea, then yes, this can get verbose and repetitive. In that case, I'd say okay, use an obscure word, or invent a word, or attach a specific meaning to a word that ALMOST means what you want. Then explain it once and use it many times. Like, "In this users guide, when we say that a feature is 'available', we mean that it can be enabled from the User Options menu ..."

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer and a sort of an explanation on it. Found it useful and, maybe, I will think twice next time I want to find a word for something. – s1e Jan 16 '15 at 15:21
  • 1
    @s1e Maybe I should clarify that I'm not criticizing you for looking for a single word to express an idea, or saying that you shouldn't look for such a word. Just that, you shouldn't be surprised if you can't find one, and should be prepared to deal with that situation. – Jay Jan 19 '15 at 22:32
  • I came here with the same questioning. I think this kind of thing happens because, as non-native speakers, we already got some rules for word-making but are not sure of what functions and what doesn't. In this case, adding -able seems pretty legit, until you see the formed word sounds awfully bad haha – igorsantos07 Jan 9 '20 at 2:42
  • @igorsantos07 Sure. Like in Hebrew and I'm told in German and Innuit and probably many other languages, it's common to slap words together and stick on prefixes and suffixes to form a new word whose meaning is readily understood by looking at the pieces. But we don't generally do that in English. – Jay Jan 9 '20 at 15:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.